From bespoke gifting solutions to omija tea, there’s a lot to sample at Inko Centre’s new address
As we approach the all-new Inko Centre, housed in a pretty white house in RA Puram, a curious thing strikes us—there are no walls in sight. Trees and bamboo frame a large floating stone gateway, with doors thrown wide open (and kept thus all through the day, we are told). Stone paths weave through the grass, skirting a tinkling water feature, leading us to the main building and the Korean culture centre’s newest attractions—The Café, The Gallery and The Craft Shop. “We did away with the walls so there is complete access for anyone who wants to come in and engage with us,” explains Dr Rathi Jafer, the director, adding, “This building complements Inko’s philosophy—of presenting culture as a sensorial experience. We have the shop for ‘touch’, the café for ‘taste’, the gallery for ‘sight’ and so on. And while each space is separate, with its specific activities, they all add up to an inter-cultural dialogue.”
As we walk through the two-month-old, approximately 6,000 sq ft building—with three classrooms, a calligraphy room, a Taekwondo studio and a large hall to host exhibitions and workshops—Jafer points out little details that make the space unique. Upcycled wooden pallets (from Hyundai and TVS Motors) form the reception area, feature walls and even a chandelier, scrap metal and wire morph into art work, and traditional musical instruments turn into wall décor. “Be it a screening or a workshop—the hall can be converted accordingly. There’s even a breakaway space on the terrace to serve food,” she says, telling us how they are planning to host a Korean flower arrangement workshop there, in June, along with an exhibition (with the Korean Flower Association). While this, and the upcoming children’s camp are the only activities lined up for the next couple of months, Jafer promises that come July we can look forward to lots of theatre, music, visual arts and more.
The Craft Shop
Housed in what was once the garage, this cosy space has walls lined with rolls of brightly-coloured hanji paper and trays full of hand-made ceramic brooches. But what catches our eye are shelves of boxes, beautifully gift wrapped and topped with paper flowers, ribbons and tassels. “We have a gift-wrapping counter manned by Tae Rin Jung, our store manager, who has a degree in textile design and expertise in Korean packing styles,” says Jafer, stressing that you can get anything wrapped (at `300 onwards), not just what you purchase there. You can also choose the bojagi style—where gifts are wrapped in Korean silk. “Whenever there is a show in the gallery, the artists are encouraged to create merchandise, too. Right now we have a small selection, including mugs by Supriya Menon, a sculptor from Pondicherry, and brooches by Korean artist Kyuri Pyon,” she says. Another unique piece we spotted was the hanji paper tile. The textured squares, hand crafted by Yong Hoon, from the Jang Ji Bang mill in Gapyeong (bestowed with the tile ‘living national treasure’), are great for wall details. But they do come at a price, Rs 2,500 per tile (available on order). Soon, Jafer assures us, we can expect lacquer ware, ceramic tableware and moshi scarves, besides workshops on gift wrapping and paper flower making. Hanji paper from Rs 90 onwards and brooches from Rs 580 onwards.
With an emphasis on organic, fresh food, the 15-seater café is meant to be a quick stop for drinks and snacks. “While we have popular hot and cold coffees—for which we use organic beans sourced from Marc Tormo’s Coffee Ideas in Pondicherry—we are quite proud of our Korean offerings, like the patbingsu (red bean sherbet), omija (five flavour tea) and maesil (green plum punch),” says Jafer. Currently, they also sell various preserves, flavoured demerara sugars, natural spice extracts, cookies and sandwiches. Up next are plans to introduce Korean soups, salads and treats like sweet red bean buns. Coffees from Rs 80 onwards.
A pristine white space peppered with pedestals, the gallery opened its doors with Ceramic Connect—a selection of work created by Indian and Korean artists who’ve been associated with the Inko Centre over the years. Now, you can also find pieces from the recently-concluded Earth Matters residency (where they hosted artists for a five-week workshop). All the pieces are for sale. From Rs 3,000 onwards.
Staples like Taekwondo, yoga, calligraphy and Korean and English language classes are still available.
In fact, as part of their kids’ summer workshop, learn modern Korean calligraphy from Juae Park, a calligrapher with a degree in Oriental painting. The three-part workshop will also include classes in Taekwondo and choral music. From May 11-22, at Rs 6,500.
At Adyar Club Gate Road.
—Surya Praphulla Kumar